UK HELPED AMERICA TO SPY ON THE UN IN RUN-UP TO IRAQ INVASION
Guess who got England to spy on the United Nations in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in breach of international law? But hey, what's a little breach of the Vienna Conventions when you want to wage an illegal and immoral war of aggression. And this to the long list of crimes that are awaiting American leaders. Looks like England is America's poodle state in more ways than one:
"Britain helped America to conduct a secret and potentially illegal spying operation at the United Nations in the run-up to the Iraq war, The Observer can reveal. The operation, which targeted at least one permanent member of the UN Security Council, was almost certainly in breach of the Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations, which strictly outlaw espionage at the UN missions in New York."
Britain spied on UN allies over war vote
Security Council members 'illegally targeted' by GCHQ after plea from US security agency
Martin Bright and Peter Beaumont
Sunday February 8, 2004
Britain helped America to conduct a secret and potentially illegal spying operation at the United Nations in the run-up to the Iraq war, The Observer can reveal.
The operation, which targeted at least one permanent member of the UN Security Council, was almost certainly in breach of the Vienna conventions on diplomatic relations, which strictly outlaw espionage at the UN missions in New York.
Translators and analysts at the Government's top-secret surveillance centre GCHQ were ordered to co-operate with an American espionage 'surge' on Security Council delegations after a request from the US National Security Agency at the end of January 2003. This was designed to help smooth the way for a second UN resolution authorising war in Iraq.
The information was intended for US Secretary of State Colin Powell before his presentation on weapons of mass destruction to the Security Council on 5 February.
Sources close to the intelligence services have now confirmed that the request from the security agency was 'acted on' by the British authorities. It is also known that the operation caused significant disquiet in the intelligence community on both sides of the Atlantic.
An operation of this kind would almost certainly have been authorised by the director-general of GCHQ, David Pepper. But the revelation also raises serious questions for Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who has overall responsibility for GCHQ.
Details of the operation were first revealed in The Observer on the eve of war last year, after the leaking of a top-secret memo from the NSA requesting British help.
But until today it was not known whether British spy chiefs had agreed to participate. The operation was ordered before deliberations over a second UN resolution and targeted the so-called 'swing nations' on the Security Council - Chile, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Angola, Guinea and Pakistan - whose votes were needed to proceed to war.
The first evidence has also emerged that China, a perma nentmember of the Security Council, was a likely target of the operation.
The Observer has discovered that a GCHQ translator, Katherine Gun, 29, who faces trial after leaking details of the US request, was hired by the surveillance centre as a Chinese language specialist. Documents of this level of secrecy are circulated on a strict 'need-to-know' basis. Security experts have said that it is highly unlikely that someone as junior as Gun would have seen the memo had she not been expected to use her language expertise in the operation.
She is thought to be an expert translator of Mandarin, the language of Chinese officialdom.
The memo, dated 31 January, 2003, stated that the security agency wanted to gather 'the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'.
It was sent out four days after the UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, produced his interim response on Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions.
In the wake of the Hutton report and the establishment of inquiries into intelligence failures on both sides of the Atlantic, the Gun case represents a further risk to government credibility over the Iraq war, showing how far the US and Britain were prepared to go in their ultimately unsuccessful attempts to persuade the world of the case for UN support for war against Iraq.
The Gun trial will reopen embarrassing questions for the Government over the conflicting views on the legality of war which were debated in the run-up to the conflict. At the time when the memo was received at GCHQ, officials at the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and in the intelligence services - including senior legal advisers - were expressing serious doubts over the legality of any invasion.
At the time, The Observer was told by Foreign Office officials of serious doubts that the war was legal.
When the GCHQ revelations were first published in The Observer last March, the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, had still not publicly announced his final advice to Downing Street.
At the time, it was expected that he would agree with most experts in international law that intervention would be unlawful without a second resolution.
The legality of the war was a highly sensitive issue for senior military officers on the eve of war, who were wary of being accused of war crimes in the aftermath of the conflict.
The former assistant chief of defence staff Sir Timothy Garden said that the legal basis of the war is all the more important now that Britain has signed up to the International Criminal Court.
'We did it on the best advice that was available in a democratic country. But following an order is not an excuse in the end.'
Read the memo (pdf)
Observer article of March 2003
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